It is almost 100 degrees in New York. Walking around the city feels like rolling around in someone’s armpit. Even if I didn’t have the day off, I’d still be glued to the air conditioner. Today I’m studying for a menu test I have to take for my new job. It’s kind of fun– index cards and Sharpee markers and Hell or High Watermelon beer. There is also an In Living Color marathon on tv and it has been the best background entertainment. I watched every single episode of that show as a kid and watching it now as an adult makes me laugh in the same way. It is really funny, but I also love how the show feels so good-spirited. It doesn’t feel snarky or ironic, it feels like watching a bunch of friends being funny. And when I laugh watching In Living Color, it’s my favorite kind of laughing– the very long chuckle that makes me shake my head and my eyes start tearing up and I have to put my face in my hands.
Eight things I want to do before the summer ends:
- Learn how to play chess
- Make homemade sweet tea
- Go kayaking
- Finish the short story I’ve been working on since March
- Visit a water park
- Learn how to ride a bike
- See a movie at the drive-in
- Spend one whole afternoon (let’s say noon-6) on a porch with my friends and lots of canned beer and a bottle of Firefly. I’m okay if it’s a backyard instead of a porch. I’m also okay if we spend a lot of time trying to figure out what to eat for dinner. You know how it is when you’re drinking all day and someone realizes “Man, we should eat something,” and someone else says “What do we feel like eating?” but then the conversation kind of spins and turns, because everyone’s been drinking all day, and then someone brings up “That time with the cow and you fell down,” and someone else pipes in with “Oh! And that guy was there,” and then someone starts laughing so hard he or she falls out of his or her chair and then everyone’s laughing and someone gets up to get a beer and asks who wants another and six people shout “I do!” and someone else goes inside to use the bathroom and the laughing won’t stop, and by the time everyone has settled down, forty minutes have passed and things are a little quieter and a Fleetwood Mac song is twinkling out of someone’s portable ipod speakers and then someone else asks, “Wait, did we decide what we’re going to eat?”
Yesterday afternoon, I was killing time at the Strand and came across Here and Now— a collection of published letters between Paul Auster and J.M. Coetzee. When I finish reading Blue Plate Special, I will purchase Here and Now (with the four remaining dollars in my checking account, God, I think I will have a job by next week, please don’t let the repo man come and take away my books). Apparently Coetzee and Auster were familiar with each others’ work, but weren’t closely acquainted until their correspondence began. Shortly after meeting, Coetzee wrote Auster and suggested that an epistolary exchange would be a way to “strike sparks off each other,” and so began a three year relationship of letters.
When I was twenty, I went to visit a friend in London. On the last night of our trip, we went out dancing (for the eighth night in a row, I’m sure. Even if I tried to do that now, I’d be too haggard and sleepy to be allowed entry into any decent nightclub. But back then, boy, I had that brio of youth that made me bounce like a ponytail into every bar night after night after night) and I met a guy named Jonathan. The details are hazy, but he and I danced for the first half of the night (I do remember him telling me that I danced like I was on a pole, which, well, yeah, I’m not sure if that makes him seem gross and sleazy or me seem young and stupid, but upon hearing his observation, I’m sure I bucked my hips and threw my hands in the air), and we kissed and kissed and kissed for the second half of the night. We made out as though we’d been dating for years and he was off to war and we’d never see each other again. At some point between kisses and gasps and pants, we exchanged addresses and vowed to keep in touch. After three hours, some alleged erotic dancing, and a bunch of Marlboro Lights, I now had a pen pal. He lived in Essex, I lived in the Bronx, and I was sure that I loved him.
We did write to each other. For about a year, we wrote back and forth, sending pictures and scribbling jokes onto the envelopes, we kept in touch. The lag between sending and receiving a letter was around two weeks, and I felt hair-rippingly wild by the time the weeks had passed and I finally received a note from him in the mail. I came to recognize his long, slanted handwriting, and I would read each letter over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. I carried them in my purse. I felt alive. I don’t remember us writing anything overtly sexual or even romantic (nothing of the “you look like a pole dancer” variety), but I do remember expressing our good fortune to have found each other. We wrote that a lot. How lucky I am to have danced that night with you. He wrote me from Tanzania and Zimbabwe where he was working as a chef at hotel restaurants. He sent me pictures from his culinary school graduation. I wrote to him about auditions and books I was reading and how much I wanted to travel. We wrote about trying to see each other. I imagined a life for us between the letters, on the same continent, dancing together one more time.
I can’t remember how we fell out of touch. I started dating someone who used up all my energy in the worst possible way, he continued to travel through Africa for work. I got an email (not a letter) from him after September 11th asking if I was okay. I remember responding, but I don’t remember what I said.
A few months ago, I sent a friend an email about a memorable encounter I’d had with a coworker. A few days later, my friend sent me a text message saying he’d enjoyed my email, but wasn’t quite sure how to respond. I texted back, telling him it was no problem, no need to respond. And I wasn’t really lying, I don’t think. Because I suppose if you have to ask for a response or tell someone how to reply, some of the beauty of the exchange gets lost. What was so remarkable about my correspondence with Jonathan was that we weren’t really asking for anything at all. We were just paying attention to that little need in both of us that kept wanting to connect, that kept asking for more. A letter contains someone’s DNA; it carries a piece of the writer wherever it goes. Jonathan and I, for just a short little while, agreed to keep sending and receiving pieces of ourselves. We were still kissing even though we were miles away from each other.
Yesterday was just a great day. I worried it was going to be the pits– I woke up with a hangover and covered in bug bites the size of mini-golf balls. I was anxious in that post-drinking way and was totally unsure how I would spend the day. But then Amber and Leah told me we were getting delivery– cans of soda and hard, soft, and cheesy tacos from Benny’s Burritos– and we laid on their huge sectional couch in front of the AC and watched Harry Potter 3 & 8. I kept falling alseep, I drank my can of ginger ale (canned soda is my favorite part of being hungover), I woke up and watched Harry and Ron and Hemione get out of trouble, I fell back asleep. It was so relaxing and felt so comfortable, I felt like I was home.
After six-plus hours on the couch, I went over to Erik and Carly’s for zucchini soup and ceasar salad and beer and cantaloupe ice pops. Carly and Erik are two of the friends I missed most while I was away, and last night we drank and laughed and argued about Mel Gisbon. So much fun. We also watched Howard the Duck, which I hadn’t seen in at least 20 years. Carly and Erik listen to “How Did This Get Made?”— a podcast with a bunch of funny guys sitting around talking about wonderfully bad movies, and HTD was a recent pick. We laughed like crazy and I fell in love with Lea Thompson and I hope one day I get to be in a movie where I spend most of my scenes with a little talking duck and I miss movies from the 80’s. There’s something about their simplicity and lack of guile that makes them refreshing after all these years.
I think some people have ESP. You know when you’re thinking about someone or having a conversation about someone you haven’t seen in a while and all of a sudden that person calls you? Or you bump into him or her on the street? This morning I started this post about Ray and how much I miss him, and at around 2 this afternoon, I got a very funny voicemail from him that made me laugh out loud on the corner of 3rd street and Avenue D.
Ray and I met in an acting class when I first got to Los Angeles. And then he got me a job at his restaurant, and then it turned it out we lived in the same neighborhood, and then there was that day we discovered we both like to drink alcohol, read books, and eat cookies, and it was on. Besties. We got scolded at work for talking to each other too much, but I swear we couldn’t help it. Conversations with Ray, I never wanted them to stop. You know that feeling? When you’re talking to someone you like so much about not much at all, and one thing is leading to the next and you’re both laughing and everything feels vibrant, funny, and smart? Talking to Ray was like that.
My friend is so generous and thoughtful and he knew how I was feeling even when I wasn’t saying much and he introduced me to mai tais at Damon’s and cheap margaritas at Tortilla Republic and he helped me with my tables and gave me books to read and called me Road Soda and could never turn down a Friday at Marie Callendar’s and wore plaid and laughed like a little old lady sometimes and yelled at me for not knowing who Nipsey Russell was (but I remember, Ray, I do! He was the Tin Man in “The Wiz”!) and he cut desserts in half so we could share and knew about my crushes and. Well, I sure miss him a lot. It was hard saying goodbye.
I met my friend Lynn, my wonderful friend, over twelve years ago while we were in a sex education theater group (I know, what the hell does that even mean?) We would tour around schools in the city and perform skits about having sex and STDs and sometimes we had to sing songs, too. Songs about loneliness and herpes. Lynn was my rock in Los Angeles– she introduced me to Larchmont Village, gave me my first LA driving tour, listened to me cry, educated me about Dole Whip, took me to get beer ice cream floats. I miss her daily.
Lynn has a wonderful blog, The Actor’s Diet, which you should read, and she launched a podcast a few weeks back, which you should listen to. Right before I left, she interviewed me and it was so much fun to sit down and chat about food, take-out versus cooking, baking, and how I went to Los Angeles and became a little piggy eating donuts and cookies with every meal. Go have a listen here and subscribe to her podcast!
Okay. Don’t lie. Be honest.
Am I crazy for not loving Party Down? I think it’s funny. I kinda, sorta think it’s funny. And I really, really want to like it. But every time I sit down to watch an episode, my head feels like it’s clogged with cement and I feel like I have a sinus infection.
Maybe I just haven’t watched the right episode yet?